Police, not a security guard, alerted firefighters to the blaze that began through three stores at the Melrose Shopping Center in Cheltenham on Thursday night, a fire official said Friday.
Cheltenham Fire Company Asssistant Chief Chris Drach said that police were responding to a 9-1-1 hangup call at the shopping center, which is near the corner of Cheltenham and Bellmawr avenues.
Upon arrival, Drach said, the police found the guard lying on the floor of one of the shopping center's stores. They noticed the fire and alerted fire crews.
“Police were sent here for a 9-1-1 hang-up call," Drach said."There was smoke coming from the front of the building, they noticed an occupant, down on the floor in the building. Police went in, removed the occupant, requested the fire department, and it’s pretty much been a long night since then."
Drach said the victim, who was the sole occupant of the building, was taken to Einstein Medical Center; reports say that he died.
Drach also said the sub-freezing temperatures made the operation difficult.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Everything’s frozen. The hoses, the ladders — there were a lot of slip-and-falls. Two fire fighters had minor injuries.”
Firefighters continued to douse the building with water until about noon on Friday. Drach added that the Cheltenham Fire Co. received aid from fire fighters all over Montgomery County.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Drach said.